Friday, February 23, 2007

Change the law so that 'grot spots' cant develop in the first place!

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A few days ago I had a telephone conversation with Bristol Evening Post reporter Tom Hodson who has written features about littered and vandalised 'grot spots'. I expressed my concern to him about one Knowle grot spot and sent him the email below:

Please find attached photos of the 'grot spot' in the area of Knowle where I live. Its a former Texaco Petrol Station at 174-178 Wells Rd in Knowle and has been abandoned and left to gradually decay for I think at least 18 months, possibly longer. Its now covered in graffiti and strewn with litter. Its possible that people have been tipping their rubbish on the more out of sight parts of the area too. There is evidence that drinking and goodness knows what else has been taking place on the site, inside the fencing.

I've grown more and more concerned about this increasing eyesore as its been left to get worse. Its a possible health risk and obviously encourages a growing rat population. Why does it have to take so long before a valuable piece of land can be put to good use? Why are an irresponsible minority of people intent on ruining the way this bit of Knowle looks? Why are the land owners allowed to be so irresponsible in allowing the site to decay and become vandalised?

I've contacted the Bristol City Council Clean and Green Team (Denise James) and reported the state of the site. I also contacted the planning department at the council and found that finally a planning application was put in for the site on 29 Jan (13 1-bed and 10 2-bed apartments plus a ground floor retail outlet - application number 07/00377). When open, green spaces are threatened with mass house building its very important to make the very best use of sites like this former petrol station, and so subject to the nature and quality of the application, this development is welcome news.

I very much hope that a clean-up can be done by those responsible, with help from the council as needed. What I'd really like to see is a change in the law to give councils much greater powers to ensure that owners of land and property cant abandon areas to rot for months and years unused. This would stop such eyesores developing in the first place. I shall be following up on this as part of my work within Bristol South Green Party.

London's Congestion Charge

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I personally cant agree with the National Alliance Against Tolls (NAAT) when they say that London's congestion charge has been a bad thing ('Congestion charge will not work here', Bristol Evening Post, February 20). Congestion, as the Confederation of British Industry are saying, has damaged London's business and its - and therefore the nation's - economy. Its also damaged Londoner's health and its environment.

The congestion charging initiative is a powerful approach to dealing with congestion. It helps to: reduce congestion; reduce through traffic; encourage use of public transport in central London; benefit business efficiency by speeding up the movement of goods and people; create a better environment for walking and cycling.

Congestion charging results in substantial decreases in traffic according to modelling predictions as follows. Inside the zone: traffic reduced by 10 - 15%; queues reduced by 20 - 30%; traffic speeds increased by 10 - 15%. Outside the zone: traffic increase on orbital routes by up to 5% ; traffic would be reduced on radial routes by 5 - 10%; overall reduction in traffic outside zone by 1 - 2%.

Obviously any scheme for Bristol has to be got right and so it is well worth doing the required research to see if we can get the benefits London has. It wont work without a powerful Transport Authority for Bristol in place first however, with all the powers needed to create a decent, affordable, high quality, environmentally friendly, integrated public transport system. Its not fair to say that the London congestion charge has not worked well up to now though, which is why the decision to extend it was taken.

From 'Red Dawn' to New Labour Loyalist - what a transformation!

I'm afraid I dont think Dawn Primarolo, MP for Bristol South, has been true to her 'principles' over her 20 years in Parliament which she is now celebrating, according to a large article in the local press recently. I think there is a clear relationship between her transformation from radical left-winger 'Red Dawn' to New Labour loyalist, and her rise up the political ladder to her position as Paymaster General in the Blair Government.

I was there at the count as the Green Party's 1987 Parliamentary Candidate when she first became an MP. Then I was certainly a political opponent but given her radical credentials, I felt there was at least some common ground between our political positions. As a former UNISON steward and the NASUWT rep I have always been a supporter of many aspects of the labour movement and many of its broad objectives and so expected to see her take on issues like: income inequality; nuclear weapons and power; the importance of how we treat children and childhood; and non-violence; on an ongoing, consistent and fundamental basis.

I was there at the count again in 2001 as the Greens Candidate and said as part of my speech at the end 'I hope she fights for a truly radical agenda more in the next five years'. She most certainly has done the complete opposite of this, given the actions of the government she is happy to be a member of!

Just look at the lack of achievement on what I initially thought was our 'common ground' back in 1987. Income inequality is high and is growing. The prospect of a non-nuclear future for the UK has been shattered by the governments decision to spend $76 billion over the coming years on Trident nuclear submarines equipped to the teeth with new nuclear weapons. The government is determined to forge ahead with a new nuclear power program. On children and childhood wellbeing a recent Unicef report shows that the UK is bottom of a league table of 21 industrialised countries compiled using no less than 40 different wellbeing indicators! And far from having a non-violent community we are now experiencing rising gun crime, especially involving young people.

Its a pretty damning record and puts the article written about her into some context. When politicians of apparent strong conviction dont hold to those convictions when political opportunities come along surely it helps to bring politics and politicians into disrepute?